Sheriff: Deputy arrested for kicking inmate who tossed cookie to bird

A Pinellas County detention deputy has been fired after kicking an inmate who tried to feed a cookie to a bird, the sheriff says. Now, the former deputy is behind bars himself.

According to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Mario Christo was assigned to the kitchen work crew at the Pinellas County Jail back on January 11. Christo, 31, told deputies that he was emptying the trash when he found a cookie in the waste bin and threw it to a bird that was sitting on top of the dumpster.

Detention Deputy James Moran, 57, saw the act and ordered Christo to "drop" and give him 50 push-ups – a punishment not permitted at the jail, Gualtieri noted.

Christo completed 20 or so push-ups before he had to take a break. That’s when, Christo said, Moran kicked him in the side.

Christo – who was serving a 364-day sentence for disorderly conduct and resisting an officer – did not seek medical attention but said his side hurt for days. He waited until he was released from jail to report the incident, he said, out of fear of retribution. He was released last week and approached deputies with his story on Tuesday.

Detectives investigated and say surveillance video from that day corroborated the allegations – clearly showing Deputy Moran kick Christo. 

Moran, a six-year department veteran, was immediately fired and arrested on a misdemeanor count of battery. A second deputy is under investigation for witnessing the act but not reporting it.

"I'm kind of speechless because it's so ridiculous," Sheriff Gualtieri offered after showing the surveillance video to reporters. "Everybody knows, we don't treat people this way."